4 out of 4 stars
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When William Davis Shaffer learns that Carl Decker, his longtime friend, will soon be released from prison, a myriad of thoughts come rushing back. For one, Carl slept with both of his ex-wives. William (Bill, as he is fondly called), a philosophy professor cum author who views life through the lens of his discipline, tries to sort through the debris of his life to understand events that have taken place. Is Carl really a friend or just an opportunist? Was he just a victim, or did he play a (passive/active) role in how things turned out? This is one book you will not be able to put down.
My Secret Radio by Michael Hallock is written in the first-person narrative and tells the story of William Davis Shaffer, a small boy from the little town of Hopperton. Interlacing his early life with events in the present, Michael meshes philosophy, psychology, and politics into an intriguing story of love, betrayal, petty crime, selfishness, and unusual alliances. We are introduced to Don Heffelfinger, Bill's childhood friend; Sally, Wanda Grice, and Karen Levine (Bill's first wife); Linda Featherstone, his eccentric second wife; Ramona, his daughter; Olivia, his granddaughter; and Carl Decker, his longtime friend. In this story, the author details the intricate web of love, friendship, and betrayal that binds them together. As Carl is released from prison and requests to see Bill, the professor takes a trip down memory lane to recount the events that have led up to this point. What I saw while reading was a boy who sought to understand the world around him by likening them to characters in books he had read. With no other outlet for his feelings, Bill pours them all out in a book wherein he uses his philosophical education to make sense of it all.
The use of sarcasm and humor in this narrative was awesome. As inexperienced as he was in worldly ways, Bill found a way to survive by not taking himself too seriously. Some of the betrayals that may have broken him were carefully compartmentalized and sorted through in a part of him that may have existed in a parallel universe. Bill had the uncanny ability to detach himself from a situation and view things objectively. This may explain why he was able to remain friends with Carl and Linda despite everything. It might have seemed naive at times, but the author created a wonderful character that has personally given me another perspective on life.
Carl's friendship with Bill can, at best, be described as toxic and draining. The web created among Karen, Linda, Ramona, Olivia, Carl, and Bill was damaging and could have utterly been avoided. I cannot shake off the feeling that Carl ran roughshod over Bill as much as he could, and it irked me to no end.
There was nothing to dislike about this book. For such a voluminous book, the errors were minimal, which means it was professionally edited. This makes it deserving of a rating of 4 out of 4 stars. I recommend this book to people who tend to look at life through philosophical lenses. There are also enough tangles of love and romance to keep readers engaged.
My Secret Radio
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